The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a new coronavirus variant to be “of concern” and named it Omicron.
It had a large number of mutations, and early evidence suggested an increased reinfection risk, the WHO said.
It was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on 24 November, and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.
A number of countries have now decided to ban or restrict travel to and from southern Africa.
It is not uncommon for a virus to change, or mutate, over time. A variant becomes a variant of concern when that mutation might affect things like transmissibility, virulence or the effectiveness of vaccines.
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